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Indirectly introduced to a wider secular audience through her non-vocal appearances on the 2006 season of American Idol (her granddaughter, pixie-like jazz singer Paris Bennett, was a finalist) and a supporting role in the gospel-set film The Fighting Temptations, Ann Nesby could have gone for the cynical pop-oriented cash-in. Instead, the career high point In the Spirit is Nesby's first album of traditional gospel tunes, and it's one of Nesby's finest sets. Inspired by Aretha Franklin's 1972 gospel set Amazing Grace, In the Spirit has a similar feel: the songs are mostly gospel standards, arranged in a contemporary style in keeping with the current R&B marketplace. Like Franklin, however, Nesby doesn't stoop to trend-chasing; the synths and electronic beats that underpin many of the songs are subtle and mixed with organ, grand piano, and other old-school sounds. At all times, the focus is on the vocal arrangements, featuring Nesby and her backing vocal trio led by daughter Jamecia Bennett, which are among the most impassioned and rich Nesby has ever sung. Even the pair of familiar pop covers fit the devotional theme; Stevie Wonder's "Heaven Is Ten Zillion Light Years Away" is transformed from its original spacy jazz-funk into something considerably more disarming, and Nesby does the near-impossible by outdoing Bill Withers with her proud, resilient take on his classic "Grandma's Hands."